Linking Course Templates

Linked Templates is one of the most powerful yet sophisticated features of Concourse. We encourage only the most experienced Concourse users to work with Linked Templates. To help you get there, we first recommend reviewing these introductory articles related to creation, course and item permissions, and template definition.

Once you have a good understanding of how all of these capabilities interact, linked templates becomes an indispensable tool in Concourse.

To begin, it's worth discussing the concept behind linked templates. Extending the basic template functionality, linked templates give administrators the ability to "tie together" a series of template levels (e.g. institution > department > course) in such a way that content can be introduced at the appropriate level and then "pushed down" to lower level templates with ease. In other words, the addition of and future changes to an institutional policy like Academic Integrity can be placed (and enforced) on every template with a single click.

Further, course and item permissions can be used to carry through said templates, which means you can not only make sure the content is placed and consistent on every syllabus, but you can prevent certain uses from taking liberties with it.

Finally, once a template is cloned for a given semester, it takes a snapshot of the then current template and allows instructors to work on it and add their section specific information. This means that future updates to templates will not be retroactive, therefore preserving your syllabus archive with the policies and procedures that existed when the course was actually offered.  

So, how does one start working with linked templates? Fortunately this part is quite easy. A linked template is generated from the cloning of a template to as another template. This will create a two-level template chain, much like institutional to college in the above diagram. Similarly, then cloning that college-level template will create a third level, in this case a course template.

You can also go back and clone the institutional template again to continue extending your template tree, say for distinct templates between the humanities and science schools. All of the content on the institutional template will propagate these levels, though the humanities and science school templates themselves can have differences that only show up on courses within their schools. This side-by-side comparison of syllabi is an example; the syllabus on the left is the higher level template, while the syllabus on the right is the lower level template:

  

Syllabus_Geek_Note_Smallest.png*Note: At this point it may not be hard to see how you can create a template scheme with any number of levels and dependent templates. However, for manageability reasons we do not recommend going beyond three levels.

 

Once you've created your linked template, you will note that a purple icon takes the place of the yellow edit and red delete controls on the edit syllabus page. This means that the content for that item is linked (i.e. derived from) a parent template and is updated as the higher level template is modified.

Clicking on the icon will point you to said higher level template. If you then edit that higher level template and return to the lower one, you will see the content has been updated in both places. You then continue to extend the lower one beyond what's already present.

Now here's where it gets tricky. While we believe this to be the intuitive and natural behavior, it can definitely cause some confusion. Higher level templates will always take precedence over the lower ones in terms of additions and deletions. Let's say you have two templates, college and course. The college level template has a course policy that says "No Cheating." The course template then has this policy and also one for calculators in the classroom. It also contains a course description.

Since additions and deletions cascade, here's what can happen:

1) Say a new course policy is introduced for ADA at the college level. This addition will flow down to the course template.

2) Conversely, if the cheating policy is removed, it will disappear from the course template. The calculator policy will still remain.

3) However, if the course policy category as a whole is removed from the college template, it will take everything off the course template related to policies, including the calculator policy.

4) In a similar manner, if the in college template has a course description added, since there is only space for single course description item on each syllabus, it will override the description that was already in place on the course template, effectively deleting it.

Moral of the story? Be very careful when adding and deleting items from higher level templates.

There is still much more to learn about linked templates in terms of hierarchy design, best practices, cloning with feeds, setting permissions, and more, in our tips and tricks area. But as we've long believed, practice makes perfect, so get out there and start trying linked templates to see how beneficial they can be for your campus.

 

If you have suggestions regarding this feature or any other syllabus-related topic, please let us know! Visit the Community Area in the Concourse Support Center to share tips and learn about other schools' best practices.

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